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Breast Cancer in women

Messages to others about breast cancer

Women who were diagnosed after finding a lump encouraged others to be aware of any breast changes, and to consult their GP about any suspicious lumps. Most lumps are benign, but early detection of malignant lumps can be effectively treated.

 

Advises women to be aware of any breast changes and comments on the effectiveness of treatment.

Advises women to be aware of any breast changes and comments on the effectiveness of treatment.

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 44
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And just as soon as you find anything that worries you, go to the doctor. It's not just a lump. It can be a skin change.

A lot of women don't realise if they get puckering of the skin, or problems with nipples, that they should go and get them looked at.

Because there are other ways of presenting itself other than an obvious lump. Not to be too afraid. Particularly if you know you've only got a small lump.

Even a big lump in the long term can do very well, as it were, the patient can do very well.

But I do think whatever your situation, and whatever you are told, even if you've got lymph node involvement, people still do very well. Things are improving all the time.

Messages to newly diagnosed women were of support and encouragement. Some women stressed the importance of asking questions and getting as much information as is helpful. A few women recommended getting second opinions if unsure.

 

Recommends asking as many questions as necessary.

Recommends asking as many questions as necessary.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 48
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Stay calm. Be as positive as you possibly can. Go into interviews with written questions if necessary. Think about it hard before you go into your first interview after the staging.

I'm only saying this in retrospect because I wish I had done that because I probably, if I'd sat down and thought about it, I might've had more questions. I mean I did have some.

And every time you go to see anybody, whether it's an oncologist or a surgeon, if there's anything at all, ask your question. Don't be fudged, don't be put off, ask your question. And if you don't understand the answer, ask again until you hear what you want to hear or hear what you understand.

Because if you want to know about it, the only way to do it is to ask.

 

Penny advises women to ask questions, take someone with you to appointments and not to feel hurried.

Penny advises women to ask questions, take someone with you to appointments and not to feel hurried.

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 37
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Ask your questions. When you go for your check ups, always have somebody with you, whether it would be a parent, your partner, your best mate. And the reason I say that is because when you go for those check-ups, you don’t actually hear everything that’s being said to you. You’ll only hear what you want to hear.

And before you go write all your questions down. And I used to have quite a lot of questions and, quite often by the time I’d gone in, the consultants are very good because obviously they’re very knowledgeable and very skilled. And the way they talk to you, they’re answering all your questions. But there might be just that one that you need an answer to. And for me is to have that person with you to make sure those questions get answered.

And also don’t feel as though you’re being hurried. We’re all a patient. And yes, appointments are very tight. And don’t feel as though you’re being a nuisance either. Because I remember, because I was only 37 and when I was on my ward I was, the hospital I was in is no longer there, they’ve pulled it down and there’s a brand new hospital now. And I was on a ward of about 20 other ladies who had all different conditions. It wasn’t just cancer. And some of those ladies were very, very elderly. And I was thankfully was put down one end of the ward. And I felt all those other people needed more care than I did. And when I look back I think I was still the patient as well.

So don’t be frightened to ask, they’re there to care for you. Write your questions down. Take somebody with you because there is sometimes a lot of information that you, at the time, you walk away and think, “Oh don’t know what they said, what do they mean by it?” And then when you come away, if you’ve got any uncertainties, ring the breast care nurse. Because that’s what they’re there for. They are there to support you. Don’t be frightened to ring them.

And I found with mine, which was something I found, that I had to go for a mammogram on my other boob. First of all I was going yearly for the first five years. And now I go every two years. And I seemed to be always waiting for results, but I felt oh I don’t want to be a nuisance and phone up. And I’ve since found out, my breast care nurse, she said, “If you just give me a ring,” she said, “I can actually look up the details and tell you if you’ve got any, if there’s anything you know you need to know. And I can get hold of the consultant to chase things up for you.”  So they’re there, you know, so.

And finally I think use people, not use, but if you’ve got other ladies around you of the same age, get to know them and share your thoughts. Because that’s what I did and we’ve had some great laughs. We have some great times out. We take the mickey out of each other and that’s what it’s about. You know, we can look back, and yes it was extremely serious, but now when we meet up we hardly talk about it.

Many women stressed the importance of talking with other people and of accepting support when needed. One of these women also stressed that different patients are given different treatments and that this should not cause concern.

 

Explains that different patients receive different treatments, and stresses the importance of...

Explains that different patients receive different treatments, and stresses the importance of...

Age at interview: 76
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 52
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The only thing I always do say to people when we see them' "Never take notice of what one person's having, in chemotherapy, radiotherapy, tamoxifen or whatever."

It's purely because you either don't need it, and the consultants don't think it's necessary for you.

Well, as to advice, I would say don't bottle up your concerns. Talk about them. Get it out in the open, you'll feel better for it.

Because if you talk about it, it's not going to go away but at least you'll have some idea of what's going on and you'll have some idea of what you're going to have to cope with. And it'll give you a better chance to cope with it.

Because it's a fact, it's the not knowing, it's the unknown that is the worry.

And I think that's when it's good to see people who are a long way on because you think to yourself' "Well if they can do it, so can I."

Having a positive attitude was also stressed as important and several women discussed fighting or beating breast cancer with an optimistic and positive frame of mind.

 

Explains that you have to be positive and active about beating breast cancer.

Explains that you have to be positive and active about beating breast cancer.

Age at interview: 57
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 54
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Well the thing is, if you find out you've got cancer you've got to be positive. You've got to try and beat it because I think you are bigger than the cancer, so you've got to beat it. And you've got to be determined to make sure it doesn't get the better of you.

So you get up every day, thank God you are living, and try to do what you have to do.

You do not sit down and think' "Well I'm going to get better," because you will get better, but if you sit down you're going to feel lazy, and you're going to start getting, you know, careless.

But if you are up, you're about, at least you are active. You know, you are positive. Very positive you've got to be. And you've got to do what you know you're supposed to do' eat the right food, do the right things, get your exercises. You can't go to the gym but you can still go for a walk, walk round the block and come back.

But you've got to be very positive about it.
 

Several women encouraged others not to be afraid when diagnosed and to view breast cancer as a temporary interruption. A few women suggested eating healthily during treatments and exercising afterwards in order to avoid complications such as lymphoedema. Others suggested taking as much rest as necessary and trying not to worry.

 

Explains that breast cancer can be seen as just another illness rather than much worse than...

Explains that breast cancer can be seen as just another illness rather than much worse than...

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 24
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I suppose that, yeah that you are, you know, you can come out the other side. 

That, you know, it isn't necessarily a death sentence. That you don't, you can treat it like another illness. It doesn't have to be this whole thing on its own that is much, much worse than anything else. 

And well if you can, if you can get past the fear of cancer - the initial being diagnosed with it - then actually you can look at it as if you had, you know, another illness which, there are other illness with the possibility of it being terminal, but with a very strong chance of it not being. 

And that, you know, they can offer you so much now that, you know, the medicine available is amazing, the treatment is amazing. 
 

Many women stressed that, these days, breast cancer can be treated effectively and normal life can be resumed after treatment. Some women mentioned the positive outcomes of the experience. Others encouraged women to enjoy each day rather than dwelling on the illness.

 

Explains that it is better to enjoy each day than to worry about illness.

Explains that it is better to enjoy each day than to worry about illness.

Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 58
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Yes, women that had, sometimes similar operation or sometimes something different. And one particular one she was always fretting and I'm thinking, so she asked me why am I not complaining.

So I said' "Well I've got one theory. Take one day at a time, live it to the full and don't bother about tomorrow or yesterday. They don't exist."Today is today and that's what you have to think about." She says' "Oh."

And then she said, the next month when we came back for therapy, her husband came in and he said' "Thank you." So I couldn't, you know so I said' "Why, what for?" He said' "Well, telling my wife that she should take it one day at a time and just live for that day. "And since she came home last time she's been, look at her, she's looking better now isn't she."

And I was so happy when he said that, you know I could have clapped.
 
 

Ingrid recommends having a project to focus on and plan aside from the cancer. She and her...

Ingrid recommends having a project to focus on and plan aside from the cancer. She and her...

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 58
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As part of your survival I would recommend a joint project that is independent of your cancer.

I suppose just thinking about how useful it actually was, having this farmhouse to plan and organise, and it was a joint project with my husband that, it was something that we did together and we talked together. So it was something for the future. So maybe that is also something that is useful. Another alternative for someone would be to plan a holiday or to plan something that you’re going to do together once this crap is over and done with. It’s planning that, and doing it together. And to be talking about something totally different and sort of to just say, “Ooh I’ve come up with this idea for the kitchen. Could we? Should we?” That sort of thing. Or, “Ooh furniture for the living room. Are we going to do it this way or that way? And what are we going to do.” And, “Ooh I’ve come up with an idea, it would be nice to do this, that and the other.” That sort of thing.

And sort of, “What colour curtains?” And it is just totally, has nothing to do with cancer but it has to do with the future. It has to do with joint future. And yes I suppose underlying, you know, when I was undergoing the treatment ‘would I actually experience this?’ And then thinking, “Oh yes I will.”

Some women had messages for family members, friends and others who are concerned about someone who is newly diagnosed. One stressed the importance of giving support and encouragement, and another of support through regular contact.

 

Suggests words of support to friends and family when talking to someone who has been diagnosed...

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Suggests words of support to friends and family when talking to someone who has been diagnosed...

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 38
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So my advice to people is, when someone very close to you is diagnosed with cancer, never say you understand because you don't understand unless you have cancer yourself.

Instead just tell them, assure them that they are not alone, you will be there for them, you'll go through it together.

That's the only words. They sound simple and empty but they mean a lot.
 
 

Wants people to know how important it is that friends keep in touch.

Wants people to know how important it is that friends keep in touch.

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 59
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There are certain things that I think people ought to know, people who haven't got cancer, is that you do want people to be interested.

You do want people to ask you out.

You don't care really if people intrude.

It's just so nice for people to contact you when you've got this illness.

It makes you feel that you're wanted, you're liked, your life matters.

They want you to live on.

Last reviewed August 2018.
Last update June 2010.


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